The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

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Post-release patches

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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This arrived while we were away on holiday; a “Fix pack” for Age of Steam Deluxe, comprising several stickers, and a cardboard ...urm …chip stacking “thing”? … to help identify the value of chips where the writing has worn off.

From gallery of MrShep


To be honest… this solution to the numbers-disappearing-off-chips issue seems a bit lame to me. But — fortunately — I don’t seem to have been struck by that particular problem. After a considerable amount of experimental chip rubbing-and-fondling, the numbers seem sufficiently finger-safe on the currency chips that I got. Maybe it’s only certain batches that got affected? Other folks seemingly weren't so lucky.

But the sticker solution… well… it’s all a bit “meh”, isn’t it? I’ve decided to only apply one of these stickers — the Denver sticker — to my copy of the game.

Denver was erroneously printed as a black-background hex, when it should’ve been white-background hex. It’s a pretty obvious error (two black 5s on the same board, one of which is very clearly on the white side of the board), and I imagine that as long as you remember to point it out to the people that you’re playing with at the start of the game, it’s not really the end of the world. But since I have the sticker, I figured that I might as well apply it. And it looks pretty good:

From gallery of MrShep


The circular number stickers in that first photo are for a board that I don’t own; a 2-player New England map. This was an optional extra on the Kickstarter — and at the time, it wasn’t entirely clear that it was an O’Toole rework… otherwise, I would likely have backed it (actually, if I’d had advance notice that 2020 was going to be year-of-the-two-player-and-solo-games, I would definitely have backed it!) … but subsequently discovering that they’d managed to fundamentally balls up the player sequence colours on the turn order track has definitely made it seem like less of a loss. (That said, if there’s a fixed reprint in the future, I’ll probably spring for it )

From gallery of MrShep


And the green stickers? Those are mostly (/entirely?) here to fix dodgy spellings of place names. And to be honest… I don’t think that’s a big enough issue for me to want to apply them to my boards. As you can see from the photo, the shade of green is a bit off… which isn’t ideal. And umpteen recent plays of “My City” (a legacy game with many on-board stickers) has made me very much aware that any time you put a sticker on a board, no matter how flat you lay it… you generate a raised edge … an edge which kind of snags against any tiles slid towards it. So for sake of a few corrected spellings (and, lets face it, once you’re playing, all those towns just become abstract white dots anyway…), I decided against compromising the tactile qualities of the board.

Blimey. “Tactile qualities of the board”. Just what kind of uber-board-game-snob did I sound like there?

Anyway. Yeah. A whole mess of stickers. For a bit of a mess of a kickstarter delivery.

At least I used one of them.
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Today 7:10 am
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Some people get by / With a little understanding

John Shepherd
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Sunday brought a rare opportunity to play a “proper” game.

As regular readers will be aware, since early April my weekend gaming has mostly revolved around a weekly skype call with the family. Which has been fine (and I appreciate that even that is a lot more gaming than a lot of folks have managed during recent months!)… but has tended, by necessity, to focus on very light / easily-played-over-webcam type games.

We kind of called an end to those Skype calls a few weeks ago (just before we went on holiday), because it looked like precautions were being lifted, face-to-face meetings were more viable, travelling was becoming easier, and regular video-conferencing catch-ups didn’t seem like a thing that was going to be quite as necessary going forward.

Hmmm… a lot can change in a few weeks, can’t it?

Anyway, irrespective of what happens next, for this week at least, our gaming time was our own. So we thought we might play something a little bit meatier than we have for a while. And the thing that we decided to play was: Glen More II: Chronicles

From gallery of MrShep


All things considered, I think my copy of Glen More has been undeservedly under-played. In the time since the kickstarter package arrived — almost a year ago — my copy has had precisely two outings: once at Newcastle Gamers, and again at last year’s Gathering of Chums. Not because it’s a poor game … it’s a very good game … but it arrived at that that time of year — the Essen season — where everybody has new things to play, and games tend to fight a bit for table time. And then, as that started to die down, the whole Covid-19 thing happened.

Anyway, aside from not having played it as much as I'd like, my rationale for this getting this back to the table pretty much ran like this: Mrs Shep doesn’t like learning a new game unless we’re likely to play it a few times. And Glen More II contains all of those mini-expansions (AKA “chronicles”) -- all of which are yet to see the light of day in my copy. So if the game proved a success, it would maybe be a bit of an opportunity to get some of those chronicles played over the coming months too.

The session went well. It’s not too bad a game to teach — Mrs S picked it up pretty quickly. In fact, she picked it up so quickly that she ended up beating me … (though I did “help” her avoid some massive mistakes in the first few rounds, just to keep the game fair — next time she’s on her own! )

This is the first that time I’ve played Glen Moore II with only two players, and it’s maybe worth mentioning that the “dummy player” mechanism — simple and unobtrusive though it is — works really well. Glen More uses the “whoever is furthest behind on the rondel moves next” method of turn sequencing. When you play with 2 players, a dummy player is represented on the rondel by a (D3) die. Whenever it’s the dummy players turn to move, you simply roll the dice, move it forward that number of spaces , and then discard whatever tile it lands on.

From gallery of MrShep


It’s a very simple thing to execute… but not only does this tile removal keep the pace of the game ticking over nicely, it also means that — even if you’re pretty sure that a particular tile on the rondel isn’t going to interest your opponent — there’s a quantifiable risk that the dummy player will scupper your plans if you don’t jump ahead of the pack to grab the stuff that you really want. That’s a nice tweak, which adds a decent bit of pressure to your action selection decision, and makes it feel a bit more in line with the stresses/weightiness of playing against a full quota of opponents. In an era where I'm playing a lot of games at a 2-player count, it's nice to see an example where the designer (/development team) have clearly done a little bit of fine tuning to get the 2-player experience right. Good stuff.

Anyway, it was great to get something a bit heavier back to the table. Although she’s amenable to a more complicated game every once in a while, lighter fayre tends to be a far easier sell to Mrs S, so that's usually what we play. But I do miss this kind of thing.

With a second lockdown looming, and signs that the effects of the pandemic still are far from being ameliorated …maybe it’s time for me to start looking at getting some online gaming sessions up and running again. Just to keep scratching that “proper” gaming itch.

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Mon Sep 28, 2020 7:10 am
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Flipping lovely.

John Shepherd
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Right then. I promised you a write-up of Fliptricks, didn’t I? There will be gifs. Apologies if they take a while to load.

Fliptricks is a skateboard-themed super-micro dexterity game for 1 to 4 players. “super-micro” game you say? Yes. I do say that. Though, admittedly, it’s a phrase that I just made up. But, essentially, the game comprises nothing more than 4 cards and a tiny, tiny rulebook.

From gallery of MrShep


Each player gets a card, and aligns it along its longest axis, overhanging the edge of the table (using the thick yellow lines shown on the card as a guide). You then place your index finger and middle finger below the overhanging card, somebody counts you down.. “3… 2… 1… GO”, and then, in one swift motion, everybody attempts to do THIS:

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If the card lands wrong-side up (depicting a broken skateboard), you’re out of the game.

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If you don’t land both of your fingers (i.e. feet) on the card, you’re out of the game … (with optional difficulty levels specifying whether you need to have your fingers touching the card, or touching the skateboard, or completely contained within the skateboard outline).

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And then everybody left in the game does it again… through a series of three different types of flip (as determined by the other yellow lines on the card), and then repeating the sequence until only a single player remains — the winner!

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And yeah, it’s completely stupid, and essentially just a variation on beer mat flipping. But you’ve all flipped beer mats before, right? And you have to admit, there’s IS something undefinably satisfying about a nicely-executed beer mat flip, isn’t there? There's a lovely tactile quality to doing this, and the rhythic thunk-thunk-thunk of fingers slamming onto the table top (with accompanying exclamations of failure or success) is a beautifully-visceral thing.

Should you rush out and buy this game? Well… urm… I dunno. It’s only 4 cards. And you could probably play a similar sort of thing with pretty much any suitably-sized card, if you really wanted to (though don’t use anything that you particularly treasure — my fliptricks cards have already suffered a couple of dings and dents from particularly clumsy landings!). Or maybe just use the aforementioned beer mats. But having a little professionally-produced set of cards, covered in skate board graphics does kind of add a sense of purpose and theme to it all; I guess if you pull this out in the pub, it looks like you’re playing a "proper" game. Not just messing around with the table-ware.

And, let’s face it … this is absolutely a “play it in a noisy pub” sort of game… for the days when… y’know… the old normal comes back, and we can all go back to pubs in the way that we used to. (god, I really miss pubs…)

I’d never have bought this. But I’m very happy to have had it thrust upon me as an inclusion in the Buttonshy Board Game of the Month package. Which is kind of exactly what I want from that subscription. So, yeah… it’s a bit of a throwaway novelty, and it might not be particularly long-lived… but I like this. It’s fun.

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Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:41 am
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As you all know, I *do* appreciate a good start player rule...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
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...and I almost missed this one.

Sheep, Sheep and Sheep.

From gallery of MrShep


Interesting that it refers to "the player who looks like a sheep", and not the player who looks the most like a sheep. Because every gaming group has one, right?

Silliness:
Practicality:
Likelihood of an argument breaking out:
Thematic/artistic interpretation:
Bonus for including Sheep:


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Sat Sep 26, 2020 10:03 am
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"bustin' out interstate"

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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From gallery of MrShep


The covid-backlogged May and June envelopes from Buttonshy’s board game of the month club dropped through my letterbox yesterday. Lots of Personal Space stuff (which I might take a look at if I have some time to kill, but I’ve kind of lost steam with that one a bit). A Skulls of Sedlec expansion — which I’m sure will be very useful when my copy of Skulls of Sedlec eventually gets here (it’s attached to a different yet-to-be-shipped Buttonshy order). A barmy-looking 4-card skateboard-themed dexterity game called Fliptricks (which you’ll almost certainly see a report on within the next few days, because it’s completely bonkers), and — undoubtedly the gem in the collection — Interstate, a tiny expansion for one of ButtonShy’s most popular & well-regarded games: Sprawlopolis.

I’ve mentioned Sprawlopolis here before; it’s a sharp & elegant 18-card tile-laying puzzler, released a couple of years ago, and playable either in solo mode or as a co-operative game. But this new expansion pushes the game in a somewhat-different direction — slapping a territory-dividing interstate highway straight through the middle of the map and converting the game into a 2 player head-to-head competitive challenge!

From gallery of MrShep


We had a quick test-play last night, deliberately picking out the interstate scoring card with the gentlest variant — "Mountainside Drive" — rather than plucking one out at random. When playing with this particular set-up card, scoring is identical to the solo version of the game and players can only build on (and score for) their own side of the interstate. So… yeah… multiplayer solitaire. But we don’t mind a bit of multiplayer solitaire ... and other cards allow more direct interference with your opponent, if that’s more to your taste.

Once you’ve taken turns setting out the central interstate cards, you each draw a hand of 3 regular cards, and then proceed in a play one / draw one kind of fashion until all the cards have been placed.

It was good fun. Very good fun for a pocketable wallet-game. In fact, it’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t receive this before we went on our travels last week, as it seems like a perfect 2-player take-it-anywhere sort of thing, and might’ve broken up that long stretch of Keltis Das Kartenspiell plays a bit.

Oh well; one day we’ll manage to leave the house again, I’m sure. And in the mean time… it’s a super-tiny game that I can unobtrusively leave on the living room coffee table… just in case a random opportunity presents itself

From gallery of MrShep


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Fri Sep 25, 2020 7:10 am
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Kingdom Death Diary 57: Oral Adventures

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Seizing the moment, Krista II made a dash for the gaping stone maw… squeezing between its petrified lips, wriggling betwixt sharp, rocky teeth…

From gallery of MrShep


…and pausing in the dark cavern of the mouth for just the briefest of moments before bolting out again to safety!

Quote:
A roll of 20 gets Krista +2 courage, triggering the “bold” event. And because she became “bold” during a settlement phase, this grants her the matchmaker skill. A pretty useful outcome, given the camp’s present population status.

From gallery of MrShep


We now have two active matchmakers; Krista II and Benisace. Both of whom are now extremely likely to find themselves sent on a relatively-safe-to-return-from mission next lantern year. Because… babies! MORE BABIES!!!


Krista’s triumphant sprint into potential-death-or-glory was the talk of the settlement for weeks to come. Heads turned whenever Krista was around, and she was suddenly very popular with the other survivors; an individual capable of such levels of bravery would make a very good partner indeed!

Meanwhile...

The mysterious gaping mouth remained open. Tempting… (or challenging?) others within the tribe to brave its dark and mysterious interior.

I mean… Krista made it look easy.

What could possibly go wrong?

Quote:
Krista’s triumph also seems to have racked up a bonus endeavour opportunity. So if anybody else has now been inspired to chance their arm (or, more likely: their leg) …do speak up. I mean… look at the results table. There’s a Lantern Sword in there somewhere. A LANTERN SWORD! Krista just nipped in and out again -- Big deal. Just think how impressed the other tribe members would be if YOU managed to emerge with a Lantern Sword...
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The KDM Diary sign-up thread can be found here
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Thu Sep 24, 2020 7:10 am
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Which sheep, sheep and sheep is the best sheep, sheep and sheep?

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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It’s not unusual to feel a little bit low when you get back from a holiday, is it? (A state of affairs amplified by the fact that my current work project seems to be bringing me into contact with a lot of depressing opinions from the very worst parts of British society - ugh!) And… lets face it… this week, has brought plenty of other news to feel a bit down about too. So… yeah… not the brightest of mornings.

But then… a mysterious package landed on my doormat.

From gallery of MrShep


I recognise that handwriting. (Though I don’t expect you to, since I pixellated most of it out to hide my address!). What on earth could Mr Boydell be sending me in a box this size?

Well…

Even with the wrapping removed, it took me a little while to figure out that this little beauty is a copy of: Sheep, Sheep and Sheep, by Taiwanese publisher MoZi games.

From gallery of MrShep


Hmmm… I wonder what made Tony think of me?

Pointing google translate at the back of the box reveals the following:

From gallery of MrShep


“The most harmful shepherd will be rewarded” -- I don’t think the google AI quite understands what shepherds do

From gallery of MrShep


Anyway, in the very best tradition of mysterious Asian board games in small boxes, Sheep Sheep and Sheep seems to be something rather unusual and unique. Something which could perhaps be best-described as “competitive counting”. There’s a two-by-two grid of cards in the middle of the table, and each turn a new card is flipped to cover one of the existing cards … then the first player to shout out the number of sheep in the tableau wins the round.

Would that it was so simple! …because the “rules of the pasture” mean that the number of sheep to be counted rarely matches the number of sheep actually on display.

If a wolf is depicted on a card with sheep, then one of the sheep is eaten, and doesn’t count. Unless there’s a farmer on the card … who kills the wolf. Or if the wolf is on the same card as a sheepdog, it will be chased one card clockwise, and interact with that card instead. Plus, you will note there are fenced areas … some of which have closed gates, and some which don’t — anything inside a fenced area is isolated, and won’t interact at all with stuff outside the fence… but only if the gate has been closed! Plus… there are some other random animals depicted to confuse people who are attempting to speed-count-by-glance.

And with that knowledge, I’m sure you can count the sheep depicted above in a matter of seconds! … The answer is very obviously… urm… wait… just give me a minute to check…

So, yeah. Competitive counting. Of sheep... which makes perfect thematic sense. I’m not sure how well it’ll work -- as a game -- in practice; I suspect it’s a bit of a late night game which you don’t want to be playing with your maths-savant friends unless they’ve got a drink or two inside them. But it’s an obscure-and-quirky game with sheep in it, which — obviously — instantly elevates the quality of this publication by SEVERAL degrees, and means it’ll never leave my collection.

(Plus — considering current circumstances — I can kind of imagine this working well as a streamable game. Dealer flips the cards on cam, and the first person to hammer the correct answer into chat wins the point. Hmmm…)

And, perhaps most importantly of all, it arrived at precisely the time, on this rainy wednesday morning, that I needed something random, silly and unexpected to come along and cheer me up.

Thanks Tony!

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Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:18 am
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Brave Brave Brave Brave Sir Robin!

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Legend says that in the church at Edwinstowe — deep within Sherwood forest — Robin Hood married Maid Marion. And in 1998, a bronze statue was unveiled on Edwinstowe high street to commemorate the couple’s betrothal; a romantic sculpture of Robin Hood on bended knee, proposing to his sweetheart. They hold hands gently, as Marion clutches a bouquet of delicately-sculpted flowers to her breast… and it is, apparently, one of the most photographed statues in all of Nottinghamshire.

And on Saturday afternoon, we discovered that it looks like this:

From gallery of MrShep


Ah.

The owner of a nearby gift shop informed us that a driver mounted the pavement at high speed a few months ago, and Maid Marion was, very sadly, wiped out in the resulting accident*. Robin was mostly unscathed -- and remained in place for some time -- but looked a little bit sad, proposing on bended knee to his missing lover. So now he's been taken away too, until the full statue can be restored.

(Though, if you ask me… I would’ve thought that a solo Robin Hood on bended knee would make a perfect selfie/photo opportunity for any would-be Maid Marions. Edwinstowe council might have missed a trick there!)

But… all in all… a bit of a wasted trip, that one

* * * * * *

…other than to fuel a Tenuous theme of the Day post, that is!

Have you ever opened a brand new game… only to discover that some fundamental part of the experience was missing?

I once bought a copy of 6 Nimmt, which only had half of the cards in the box. I did manage to get a replacement copy from the seller… and, subsequently, a copy of the 20th Anniversary Luggage promo for the game too. But then the promo card mysteriously disappeared from the box on its first public outing… never to be seen again.

I’m now convinced that my copy of 6 Nimmt has had some kind of incompletion curse placed upon it. It’s the only logical conclusion!

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*Oh... yeah... the driver was fine, in case you were wondering. But possibly isn't very popular amongst the people of Edwinstowe now.
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Tue Sep 22, 2020 7:10 am
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Pudding.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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A brief diversion on our way back north saw us seeking out a small blue plaque commemorating the birthplace of a great British institution. Apparently, 160 years ago, the very first fried chips were sold in the marketplace at Oldham, Greater Manchester:

From gallery of MrShep


…which, as the plaque would have it, led to the subsequent rise of Fish & Chip shops throughout the UK and -- if you stretch it a bit -- perhaps even the birth of the entire fast food industry that we now know and love?

Appropriately enough, the plaque is located beside a present-day Fish & Chip shop:

From gallery of MrShep


…which was closed and shuttered because we were passing through Oldham on a Sunday. However… Mrs Shep had done some advance research, and located a nearby (heretic and godless) chippy which is open all day Sunday! Thereby facilitating our second reason for visiting Oldham on our journey home:

Rag Pudding.

From gallery of MrShep


Yeah… I know… it doesn’t look massively appetising, does it? Rag Pudding is a dish primarily found in chip shops in the Oldham, Bury and Rochdale districts of Greater Manchester. It comprises diced steak and onions in gravy, wrapped in suet pastry, tied up in a cloth and then steamed. So it’s basically a traditional suet pudding… but cooked in a “rag” instead of a bowl.

And… yeah, it was fine. But I won’t be rushing back to eat another one. Nevertheless, it’s another obscure local British food to cross off the list, so that’s a win!

Tenuous theme of the day will therefore be: Games which feature obscure foods. Preferably unusual national or local dishes.

…Though I’ve got to be honest… I’m struggling to think of anything better than the Haggis Chronicle in Glen More II … and I’m pretty sure I’ve already trotted that one out on a previous instalment of Tenuous Theme of the Day. But I’ve got every faith in you guys… you lot can do better than this? Can’t you?

From gallery of MrShep


(and/or failing that… just tell me about a special-but-little-known dish from your particular part of the world…)

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Mon Sep 21, 2020 7:10 am
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In a hole

John Shepherd
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Our week-and-a-bit-long escape is over, and today we’re travelling home… back to the “locked-down-under-special-measures” North East of England. It’s been an odd holiday. Our travels have taken us to a lot of towns and cities… and it’s been interesting to see the effect that the coronavirus has had on various urban centres / tourist destinations. Or, more truthfully… the effect that it hasn’t had on those places. Because when you see all the carefully-designed urban precautions that have been put in place: the one-way systems on city pavements, the designated places to stop and rest, the “strictly-one-household-in-here-at-a-time” notices, the signs asking you to “wear a face covering beyond this point”, the two-meter spacing guides stencilled on the streets … and then you realise that -- no matter where it is in the country that you happen to be -- only a very small proportion of people are following those rules, and you start to feel like your own attempt to follow the guidelines and stay safe is very much going against the herd… well… it’s a bit exasperating. No, actually, it’s really REALLY exasperating. And it’s easy to see why the UK infection situation is fast reverting to the state that we were in back at the start of the year*.

So I’m not too down about the fact that I’m heading back to the most locked-down and covid-regulated part of the country. Because in a week or two, the rest of the country is going to be in exactly the same situation.

Sadly, we only got as far as the end of the beginning. Not the beginning of the end.

* * * * * * *

Last night, we played Caverna: Cave vs Cave – Era II … which I’m glad we eventaully got to the hotel room table, since I’ve been carrying it around in my luggage for the last 10 days; it would’ve been a shame to traipse the length and breadth of England with it and not even get around to opening the box.

I’ve got 2 solo games of the second era under my belt now, but this was the first time that I’ve played it with 2 players. It was an enjoyable game… but… a bit on the lengthy side; easily the best part of 2 hours, and probably even a little bit longer. I don’t really see that coming down massively for us … because it’s a game that demands a fair bit of thought, analysis, and perming-out-of-the-possibilities in a decision space which grows exponentially with each additional round played. And to be frank: if you’re happy to invest that level of time and effort into a Uwe Rosenberg game… there are better options than this. In fact… you’d probably have more fun playing the full-fat version of Caverna.

Cave vs Cave does have portability on its side; the expansion fits nicely into the (small) base game box, and that’s a tiny package compared to most of the more “epic” Rosenberg games … so maybe it’ll remain a good choice for travelling. But for day to day play… I’m starting to suspect that this expansion works better as a solo game; It’s way faster to play when you only need to think about your own game.

Sadly, I forgot to take a picture before we started packing the game away, so I can’t add this one to the gallery of “things that we’ve played in a hotel room” … but it’s a pretty good fit for the bog-standard travelodge desk-unit. (So that’s another tick in the “games you can travel with” box!)

* * * * * * *

Tomorrow I’ll start sorting through the various photos that I took on our travels, I’m sure I’ve got a few blog-worthy things to look back on in there. So rest assured that the lack-of-pictures in today’s post will shortly be made up for with a whole slew of boring holiday photos

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*Except without the toilet paper shortages this time. ‘phew!
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Sun Sep 20, 2020 9:11 am
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